My Favorite Movies of the 2010s

Movies of the 2010sThis past decade was an important transitional time for me. It began with me entering my final semester of college, and it ended with me finally moving out of my parents’ house. (Voice of a generation, that’s me.) In terms of movie watching, I made leaps and bounds over this ten-year span. Ten years ago, I’d honestly barely seen anything. Since then, I’ve more than tripled my total number of films seen. As I always like to say, I’ve reached the point where I know how much I don’t know. The hope of any list-making endeavor is, well, first of all, to impress the reader with the breadth and depth of my taste. But on the humbler side, I want to reach the point where my choices can be truly idiosyncratic, not just a reflection of consensus and the stuff that’s widely available. I’m not there yet, but I still feel really good about all 100 movies I’ve chosen for the list below, out of a total of 948 movies made between 2010-2019 that I’ve encountered so far.

List-making is contentious for good reasons, so another project I’ve been working on for months is a more egalitarian montage of all my favorite films from this period (199 feature films made the cut, along with 30 miscellaneous motion picture thingies.) There’s no telling the story of my development as a moviegoer without dealing with supercuts and video essays. I started watching the year-in-review videos posted on YouTube right around the beginning of the decade. I’ve since lost interest in that kind of smorgasbord of loosely connected trailer material. The quality of the videos seemed to plateau after a few years. But then I discovered David Ehrlich’s annual countdown of his favorite movies of the year, which reinvigorated the whole idea for me with its superior cohesion and narrative drive. I didn’t want to copy the same formula, but I think my own video shares a love for editing to the rhythms of music. See it here for yourself.

If this assortment of footage from all over the world is arranged to tell a kind of story, the story isn’t a happy one. Much has been said about dwindling theatrical audiences and the technological changes that call the whole idea of “movies” into question. In the future, will everything just be “content” that we half-watch on our devices, consigning cinematic art to museums and the homes of its remaining champions? Has my passion for the medium come about too late in the game? We’ll see. I have to say that I spent much of the past year looking ahead to finishing this video, without much thought to a future beyond it. I’ll keep watching new movies for as long as they make them, and maybe in ten years’ time there will be enough new classics to inspire another video. But this felt like something that had to be done now if it was to be done at all.

Now to the films in question. My number one film of the decade will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me well. I’ll forever regret missing my chance to see it in the theater, but my multiple viewings at the end of 2011 cemented its place as a crucial marker in my newfound love for impressionistic cinema. It might be my favorite movie of all time, but I still don’t like having one answer to that question. My pick for filmmaker of the decade, as it turns out, is this guy:

ScorseseI’m as surprised as anyone by this development. Scorsese had not previously been a favorite of mine, but I learned to appreciate him more in the last several years, and he made four of my favorite movies of the decade, more than anyone else. The directors who contributed three movies to that larger list of 199 include Christopher Nolan, Hong Sang-soo, the Coen brothers, Johnnie To, Olivier Assayas, Richard Linklater, Sean Baker, Terence Davies and Terrence Malick. Those runners-up are, again, a pretty basic Film Buff 101 group for the most part, but they’re all great.

The year 2019 got a bit shortchanged in the final results, but that’s just how it works with the rush to get these lists done right at the end of the decade, if not before. Certainly the story of any given period of time is forever in flux. There’s always more to see.

One last note: as you can tell from my video, I make no distinction between films in the traditional sense and other video-based art. New technologies have collapsed those distinctions in many ways. But if you’d still like to be a purist and ignore the three instances on the list below of TV masquerading as movies, simply plug in my #101 (Hale County This Morning, This Evening), #102 (A Quiet Passion) and #103 (Museum Hours) to the end of the list.

100 Phoenix Christian Petzold 2014
99 Paddington 2 Paul King 2017
98 Inherent Vice Paul Thomas Anderson 2014
97 Train to Busan Yeon Sang-ho 2016
96 mother! Darren Aronofsky 2017
95 La La Land Damien Chazelle 2016
94 Night Moves Kelly Reichardt 2013
93 Cold War Paweł Pawlikowski 2018
92 Uncut Gems Josh Safdie & Benny Safdie 2019
91 A Ghost Story David Lowery 2017
90 Timbuktu Abderrahmane Sissako 2014
89 First Love Takashi Miike 2019
88 Exit Through the Gift Shop Banksy 2010
87 Community, Season 2 2010-11
86 The Favourite Yorgos Lanthimos 2018
85 Tangerine Sean Baker 2015
84 Pariah Dee Rees 2011
83 Closed Curtain Jafar Panahi & Kambuzia Partovi 2013
82 Homecoming Beyoncé Knowles-Carter 2019
81 Goodbye to Language Jean-Luc Godard 2014
80 Cosmopolis David Cronenberg 2012
79 The Salesman Asghar Farhadi 2016
78 The Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese 2013
77 Inside Out Pete Docter & Ronnie del Carmen 2015
76 Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 Johnnie To 2014
75 Faces Places Agnès Varda & JR 2017
74 The Secret World of Arrietty Hiromasa Yonebayashi 2010
73 Taxi Jafar Panahi 2015
72 The Grandmaster Wong Kar-Wai 2013
71 Everybody Wants Some!! Richard Linklater 2016
70 Her Smell Alex Ross Perry 2018
69 The Beguiled Sofia Coppola 2017
68 The Beach Bum Harmony Korine 2019
67 We Need to Talk About Kevin Lynne Ramsay 2011
66 Stoker Park Chan-wook 2013
65 Mysteries of Lisbon Raúl Ruiz 2010
64 Drug War Johnnie To 2012
63 The Turin Horse Béla Tarr & Ágnes Hranitzky 2011
62 Happy as Lazzaro Alice Rohrwacher 2018
61 Lincoln Steven Spielberg 2012
60 Black Swan Darren Aronofsky 2010
59 The Irishman: I Heard You Paint Houses Martin Scorsese 2019
58 Attack the Block Joe Cornish 2011
57 Private Life Tamara Jenkins 2018
56 Amour Fou Jessica Hausner 2014
55 Mad Max: Fury Road George Miller 2015
54 Zero Dark Thirty Kathryn Bigelow 2012
53 The Work Jairus McLeary & Gethin Aldous 2017
52 Bird People Pascale Ferran 2014
51 Poetry Lee Chang-dong 2010
50 Personal Shopper Olivier Assayas 2016
49 The Skin I Live In Pedro Almodóvar 2011
48 Kaili Blues Bi Gan 2015
47 Support the Girls Andrew Bujalski 2018
46 Nocturama Bertrand Bonello 2016
45 The Forbidden Room Guy Maddin & Evan Johnson 2015
44 It’s Such a Beautiful Day Don Hertzfeldt 2012
43 Kate Plays Christine Robert Greene 2016
42 True Grit Joel Coen & Ethan Coen 2010
41 Life of Pi Ang Lee 2012
40 Baby Driver Edgar Wright 2017
39 Arrested Development, Season 4 Mitchell Hurwitz & Troy Miller 2013
38 Stray Dogs Tsai Ming-liang 2013
37 Boyhood Richard Linklater 2014
36 The Loneliest Planet Julia Loktev 2011
35 Experimenter Michael Almereyda 2015
34 Computer Chess Andrew Bujalski 2013
33 Gone Girl David Fincher 2014
32 A Separation Asghar Farhadi 2011
31 The Florida Project Sean Baker 2017
30 Silence Martin Scorsese 2016
29 Inside Llewyn Davis Joel Coen & Ethan Coen 2013
28 Gravity Alfonso Cuarón 2013
27 Pina Wim Wenders 2011
26 A Hidden Life Terrence Malick 2019
25 Cameraperson Kirsten Johnson 2016
24 Inception Christopher Nolan 2010
23 Carol Todd Haynes 2015
22 Let the Corpses Tan Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani 2017
21 Interstellar Christopher Nolan 2014
20 High Life Claire Denis 2018
19 The Deep Blue Sea Terence Davies 2011
18 Parasite Bong Joon-ho 2019
17 Frances Ha Noah Baumbach 2012
16 First Reformed Paul Schrader 2017
15 Toy Story 3 Lee Unkrich 2010
14 Amour Michael Haneke 2012
13 Leave No Trace Debra Granik 2018
12 Take Shelter Jeff Nichols 2011
11 Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson 2012
10 Cemetery of Splendor Apichatpong Weerasethakul 2015
9 Lemonade Kahlil Joseph & Beyoncé Knowles-Carter 2016
8 Before Midnight Richard Linklater 2013
7 Meek’s Cutoff Kelly Reichardt 2010
6 Under the Skin Jonathan Glazer 2013
5 The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Joel Coen & Ethan Coen 2018
4 The Social Network David Fincher 2010
3 Margaret Kenneth Lonergan 2011
2 Twin Peaks, Season 3 David Lynch 2017
1 The Tree of Life Terrence Malick 2011

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